Avalon 8.10 Refugees, part 4 of 4

Half the people exited the screens, including Decker and Katie who went out on the flanks a little to make sure no samurai or super soldiers were following around to see if the screens made a complete circle.  The wagon took four discs, one for Ghost, one for Tony, and one front and back on the wagon itself.  There was overlap, but that was better than getting stuck on a corner.  Once they were all gathered, they hurried off toward the road, to catch up with the refugees and Hideko’s students, and to get out of visual range as soon as possible.

Elder Stow sat and between the screen device and his scanner, he watched the activity outside the screens.  He saw the super soldiers try handguns and one rifle.  He watched them try to concentrate fire.  It did them no good.

He saw the Japanese warriors.  Katie said they were not technically samurai yet, not that he knew what that was, but the others all called them that.  He watched them bang on the screens with swords, spears, clubs, stones, and a couple of arrows.  One noticed a bird fly right though the screens.  Elder Stow made the screens so they would not interfere with the living flora and fauna—at least birds would not be hindered.  Three men helped a fourth reach a tree branch.  He climbed to the same height and jumped where he thought the bird came through what he thought was a screen wall, much like a stone wall, but invisible.  He went further than he expected and landed, not nearly at the top of the dome, but up on the side.  Of course, he had nothing to hang on to, so he slid back to the ground down the gentle curve.  He seemed to enjoy the ride and maybe wanted to do that again.

“Ah…” Elder Stow said to himself out loud as the samurai and super soldiers met around the edges.  Three samurai met three super soldiers, and the three samurai fell to their knees and grabbed at their heads.  The super soldiers conferred while they held the three men in the grip of their telepathic power.  Then one soldier further back, fired an arrow. It struck a super soldier in the middle of his torso. Elder Stow noted, the Ouran heart was somewhere in the middle, where the human stomach might be.  They had more ribs as well, so it took a well-placed shot to damage the heart.  The shot was well-placed, or rather, lucky.  Of course, the two standing super soldiers fired on the samurai and made small explosions in the rocks and trees behind which the samurai hid.  One of the super soldiers immediately shot the three samurai at his feet, and then the two sides backed away.

Finally, the shuttle the super soldiers arrived in came close and fired on the screens with almost no affect.  Meanwhile, Elder Stow scanned the shuttle and found four more super soldiers aboard.  “So, there are eleven, well, now ten to contend with locally,” he said to himself, and then worried, because wherever the main ship was, it was out of his scanner range.  “And who knows how many soldiers the main ship may be carrying.”

Out in the field, Katie had a question.  “These blue-skinned Ouran.  Are they Bluebloods?”

Hideko, who borrowed Elder Stow’s horse to ride beside her shook her head.  “They can’t just plant their seed in a woman like the Bluebloods could.  They reproduce normally between the two sexes, otherwise I would not let them near my women.  But they are the result of a Blueblood incursion several thousand years ago.  They all carry Blueblood genes.  They are what I told you ages ago, what the human race would have become if the Bluebloods ever got a foothold on earth.”

Katie nodded and looked back.  Nanette and Hangaku seemed very animated in their discussion.  Lockhart tried not to listen.  It made Katie smile for the man.  Behind them, Lincoln and Alexis talked some, but Tomoe looked like she got saddled with her least favorite aunt.  She only talked when asked a direct question, and then it was short and to the point.  Tony had the wagon.  Decker had the rear, which was the only direction they expected to face any trouble.  Sukki and Boston still rode out front, but being on the road, Sukki stayed close, just behind the Ouran and women who walked at a good pace.  Boston still rode out ahead, but it was mostly to look for places where the wagon might have some trouble.

“So, what are you going to do about your brother?” Katie asked.  “You are technically living in his province.”

Hideko shook her head.  “The school is over the mountain, so technically in Iga province, which is not technically his.  But who pays attention to technicalities?  Kiyomori has set his path, I think, and it does not look like a good one.  He lusts for power and control, and he will eliminate anyone who gets in his way.  I am not surprised he wants to see me dead.  He makes alliances and promises only to break them when they become inconvenient.  He forces others to do what he wants and does not even leave his own children out of that mix.  I see only ruin for my family.”

“I’m sorry,” Katie said.  “I know something of the struggle and political turmoil of these days here in Japan, but I don’t know details.  Most of my graduate work was in the west—the advent of gunpowder and that sort of thing.”

“Ancient and medieval technologies,” Hideko said, gathering the information from somewhere in time.  She gave the horse his reigns and used both hands to pull her long, gray hair into a ponytail.  She curled it and used a piece of leather she wore on her wrist, and a stick she pulled from her armor to tie it up.  “I am forty-nine,” she said.  “The war that is coming, that looks inevitable, will hopefully be my last in this life.  My brother is forty-two, and I have younger brothers.  My brother also has sons, and one daughter, Tokuko.  She is five.  I worry about that girl, being the only girl, outside of her submissive mother, around so many men.  I fear she will become what men do with girls, a political pawn, and she may come to no good end.”

“You sound like you have a handle on events.  How do you come by your information?” Katie wondered.

“I have spies,” Hideko said with a straight face.  “I train spies, young and old, common people and nobility.  I know about my father’s illness and pray that he rests in peace.  I cannot go there to see him, though.  To do so would be to invite my own death.”

Katie understood.

It was almost an hour later when the super soldier shuttle approached.  People got off the road and into the woods with only a few screaming.  They had supposedly prepared for this.  Katie took Sukki’s horse and Sukki rose up into the sky to meet the ship if she could.  She went invisible, which suggested Elder Stow was close and kept her disc tuned to the invisible spectrum.

The shuttle got off one shot.  It made a big explosion and hole in the road near the front of the women and refugees.  A few were injured.  Alexis feared Boston, who undoubtedly rode back, might be injured.  But after that, the main gun of the ship melted under Elder Stow’s weapon blast, and the back end of the shuttle exploded where Sukki trained her power.

“Sukki,” Nanette called as the shuttle shot straight to the ground like a rocket where it exploded again in a much bigger explosion that shook the earth where they stood.  Sukki became visible when she arrived, and Nanette and the others all sighed their relief at seeing her, unharmed.  Elder Stow’s voice came over the communication device.

“Just making sure none survived, though I don’t see how any could have survived,” he said.  “I’ll catch up.”

Katie lifted her arm to respond but glanced back and saw that Lockhart already had his arm up, so she lowered her hand.

“Roger that,” Lockhart said.  “Don’t be long.”

“Out.” Elder Stow said.

The travelers, refugees, and women finished the journey without another incident.  When they arrived, Hideko went straight into action.  The school had a six-foot wall all the way around a very large area that included a half-dozen buildings.  Two of those building were quite large.  One looked like a simple farmer’s hut.  “My home,” Hideko called the hut.  “The hut of the old woman on the mountain, and now I am becoming the old woman.”  She smiled.

“Where do you want us when your brother’s samurai show up?” Lockhart asked her.

“Available,” she said, and went inside her hut.  She came out only a moment later with her face painted white as a ghost, her lips blood red, and dressed in the armor of the Kairos with as much hardware as she could carry.  “You know,” she said.  “I used to paint Leonora’s face in the same way when she got into her harlequin costume.  It was what we came up with to be sure neither her father, nor her uncle the Doge of Venice would find her or recognize her if they did find her.”

They waited until about two hours after dark.  When the samurai arrived, they began with a charge at the front gate.  The travelers killed most of them, though after their initial shock at the guns, the men and women on the wall got to practice their archery skills and killed some.  There could not have been more than a dozen that escaped back to the woods.

Hideko thanked the travelers and told them to get off the wall.  She sent teams of three into the woods to rout out the remains of the warriors and end their threat.  She checked on her Ouran refugees, saw them fed and bedded, and reassured the chief that she could repair their ship and send them on their way.

“What will you do about the main ship of the super soldiers?” Elder Stow asked what was on his mind.

“Burn that bridge when I come to it,” Hideko said.  “Not your concern.”

Then the women gathered with Hideko, the two Gozens, and a few others to throw Nanette an informal bachelorette party while the men got pampered.  Hideko had a few girls from lesser houses in the capital of Kyoto who needed to practice their tea, song, and dance.  They ate well and toasted Decker time and again.  Elder Stow found the sake made him giggle, and the sound of a Neanderthal giggling made everyone laugh.  Of course, for the next ten days, all the way to the next time gate, they had to watch Elder Stow hold his head and hear him complain about the evil drink.

“I thought it was a kind of fruit juice,” he said, over and over.

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MONDAY

Back to the regular schedule.  Episode over two weeks.  3 posts per week.

Episode 8.11, Tax Collectors and Other Thieves in Nottinghamshire, England.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.

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Avalon 8.10 Refugees, part 3 of 4

Aiko sat on the log Decker pulled up to sit by the fire, though the fire had been put out.  He stared at the ring of stones that surrounded where the fire had been and imagined other stone circles he had seen, some with big stones that no man could lift.   He also stared at Elder Stow, the Neanderthal, and wondered if the man lived in Hokkaido among the primitive people there.  But he shook his head.  The flying woman of power had the same look, and they had no such people living on Hokkaido, unless the scholars were all mistaken.

“Ready,” Elder Stow said, and Boston turned to the man.

“Why have you and your men come to the mountain?” she asked plainly.

Elder Stow touched his device, one he had not shown before.  Aiko jumped from the slight electrical shock that struck him.

“Let’s try this again.  Why are you here?” Boston asked.

Aiko shook his head more vigorously, and the electrical shock was a tad stronger.  He jumped again and opened his mouth.  “The lady does not know about her father being sick and dying.  I told you the truth.  Her brother sent us to inform her and bring her to see him, if she is willing.”

“That is not entirely true,” Boston said, her truth detector being on high alert.

“Mostly true, but some part is a lie,” Elder Stow agreed, and Aiko got a larger electrical shock.  He shrieked, and Alexis came over from helping Lincoln hitch-up Ghost to the wagon.

“What are you doing?” she asked, demanding an answer

“Trying to get the truth,” Boston said, never taking her eyes off Aiko.

Alexis raised her voice.  “We do not torture people.  I can’t believe you.  What are you doing?  Leave the man alone.”

Decker and Tony arrived, and Decker immediately spoke up.  “Do you want me to kill him?  That would solve the problem.”

“Decker!”  Nanette followed Alexis to the group, and she did not hesitate to yell, but Decker just grinned, albeit, looking a bit like a shark.  Aiko withdrew from the grin and the fact that Decker was black.  He never saw a black man before, and it made him think frightening thoughts.

Boston came out with it.  “You and your men were sent to kill Hideko.  Why?”

Aiko broke down and covered his eyes.  He felt frightened and ashamed and would not look at anyone.  “My lord, Kiyomori is afraid of her.  She is the eldest and he fears she may claim this whole province as an inheritance.  She has proved herself a worthy and formidable leader of warriors, and this place is separated from the other provinces he controls.  He fears she may succeed in taking the land and men, and he wishes to keep all of the land and the warriors under his control.  He has plans.  But please.  I am only a soldier.  I do not know what his plans are.”  He appeared to weep a little.

Lockhart interrupted the scene.  “I need three of those discs.  We have three visitors.”

Boston took the disc she got back from Aiko.  She stuck her hand out and Tony and Decker gave her theirs.  She handed all three to Lockhart who turned around, having decided he did not want to know what was going on.  He would hear all about it in a moment.

“We don’t torture people,” Nanette yelled again to get back on topic.

“We would not have hurt him,” Elder Stow said, quietly.  He got interrupted by Lincoln who came over with Sukki.  “Everything packed and saddled.  We are ready to go.”

“I’m ashamed of you people,” Alexis concluded.

“Go ahead,” Boston said to Elder Stow.  He had his weapon out and seriously worked on the controls while he watched his lie detector.  He turned the power of the weapon down to almost nothing.  He hesitated, but only for a second before he shot Aiko.  The man collapsed.

“Elder Stow!  Boston!”  Alexis scolded them again and checked the warrior.  “He will live, but I imagine he won’t be moving for quite a while.”  She gave the two a hard look but could not imagine what else she might say.  Nanette appeared to be silenced as well.  Fortunately, Katie and Lockhart soon showed up with their three guests, and Lincoln broke the tense silence.

“All packed up and ready to go,” he reported.  He even tried to smile.

“Good,” Lockhart began to respond, but Hideko interrupted him.

“Boston.” she opened her arms, and Boston ran for her hug, but it felt half-hearted.

“I may have gone too far again,” she said softly and backed up.  “But not,” she insisted.  “He has a hundred warriors down the hill, and they were sent by Kiyomori to kill you.”

Hideko merely nodded and introduced her companions, Tomoe the elder Gozen and Hangaku the younger.  Then she looked at Aiko and spoke to everyone.  “You may have just delayed things.  If killing me is what he has been commanded to do, he is honor bound to succeed or die trying.  If he fails and survives, Kiyomori will kill him.  There are times in the history of this nation when suicide seems the only honorable way out after such a failure.  Stupid.  I much prefer your American solution to failure.”

“What is that?” Tony asked.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

People did not know what to say, so Lockhart changed the subject.  “What else did you find out?”

Elder Stow spoke up.  He appreciated the change in subject.  “I have been watching my screens.  We have seven Ouran who I believe are the genetically modified super soldiers we were warned about.  They are blocked by the screens, but I imagine they know what screens are.  It appears they may bring their shuttle craft close to try and blast through.  Meanwhile, we have a hundred warriors, as Boston reported.  They have come up to the side of the screens and I imagine they have no idea what it is, but they are trying to see if there is a way around.  I suspect they will run into the super soldiers any minute now.”

“Recommendation?” Decker asked, though it was not really his place to ask.

Elder Stow nodded.  “I was thinking, you can take the discs, probably in two shifts.  There is a road that direction,” he pointed.

“Where we are going,” Hideko said quietly to Katie.

Elder Stow continued.  “I can stay here and keep the screens up.  When you send the word that you are away, or if these Ouran try to follow you, I can turn off the screens, go invisible and fly to catch you up.”

“I can stay with him,” Sukki said, but Elder Stow shook his head.

“Not this time, daughter.  You are the only one with the power to take down the shuttle if it should suddenly fly off to pursue the group.  You remember how to take out the engines and can cause them to crash, whatever else you might do.  I will stay until I hear from you.  I will be all right, and I have my personal shield if something should go wrong.”

“Be careful,” Tony said.  “These super soldiers appear to be telepathic.  They tried to get into our minds but were kept out by the hedge of the gods.  I assume you are equally protected, but I do have a bit of a headache.”

“I was just going to say that,” Decker said.

“Yes sir, Colonel,” Tony responded.  “But I pay attention to magic and all that stuff.  Elder Stow thinks more like you, in terms of logical, scientific explanations, but the universe can’t always be explained in that way. Sorry.”

“Fair enough,” Lockhart said.  “Let’s get going.”

“I will ride with Katie,” Hideko said.  “Tomoe, you ride with Alexis.  I want you to hear good things about making peace.  Hangaku, you can ride with Nanette and hear all about her wedding plans.”  Hideko smiled for the couple who quickly looked at each other.

“I didn’t say anything,” Decker said, and held his hands up.

Nanette looked down, like she did not want to look at anyone.  “He asked me to marry him, and I said yes.”

The women cheered and took turns hugging Nanette.  Elder Stow and Tony said congratulations and shook Decker’s hand.  Lockhart, Lincoln, and Decker passed glances.  Lockhart backed away and Lincoln looked like he wanted to say something, but kept his mouth closed for once.

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Don’t forget Thursday’s post to finish the episode…

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Avalon 8.10 Refugees, part 2 of 4

Decker turned off his wristwatch.  Tony turned the volume on his watch to minimum and followed.  The colonel was teaching him combat skills which he feared he would need once he got back to his own time.  He tried not to think about World War One, but from what little he gathered, it would be a bloody and ultimately indecisive war.  World War Two would follow.  Well. he thought.  The Italians would switch from the winning side to the losing side.  That did not surprise him.

“Hush,” Decker said and squatted down behind a bush.  Tony inched up to where he could see.  Several men—they looked mostly like men—stood in a nearby clearing, conferring.  They had two arms with what looked like five fingered hands, a torso and two legs, and one head, a bit large, but with relatively human-like facial features.  Their noses pushed up, the ears were extra small, the lips extra thick, and they were completely bald, but they might have passed in human company if it was not for the blue tint in their skin.

One alien appeared to be talking through a communicator with the shuttle, or maybe a more distant main ship.  The other two talked quietly with each other until the one on the communicator suddenly stopped talking and turned his head to look right at the bush where Decker and Tony were hiding.  Tony saw the yellow eyes, what he considered the final proof of their alien nature.  The two who were talking quietly also stopped talking and turned to stare at the bush.

Tony felt some pressure on his mind.  It made him squint, and he thought it might give him a headache.  Decker stood up.  He started getting used to things trying to get into his head, like ghouls and Vr projectors.  He spoke to the aliens.  “This planet is off limits to alien species.  You do not belong here.”

The pressure on his brain receded and the one that talked on the communicator, the evident leader of the group, spoke.

“We are greater Ouran.  Some lesser Ouran came to this world not far from here.  We must find them and remove them.”

Tony stood.  He holstered his handgun but left the strap unsnapped.  “What do you mean, remove them?” he asked.

The Ouran commander did not pause.  “They are escaped slaves.  Their removal will depend on their degree of cooperation.”  He did not say it in so many words, but both Tony and Decker understood if the escaped slaves did not cooperate, they would be killed.  That especially rankled Decker.

“Maybe we will make this a sanctuary planet,” he said.

“You have no authority nor the ability to stop us” the commander said.  “And you would not like it if we have to force you to cooperate.”

Decker turned on his wristwatch and spoke.  “These people are called Ouran.  Our group is soldiers hunting escaped slaves.  We will be returning to base for orders.  Keep an eye on our progress.  Out.”

“Roger,” Elder Stow responded, and then there was silence.  Decker and Tony slowly turned around and walked back toward the camp.  They both knew that one of the Ouran soldiers followed them, but they came to the screens and passed through with the discs Elder Stow gave them.  The soldier banged his foot and could not get beyond the screens.  He no doubt reported his finding.

###

Boston had to do some convincing, but she got Sukki to agree to her plan.

The human samurai-like soldiers were bunched up at the bottom of the hill.  Boston ran to them, and showing some remarkable elf speed, she ran circles around them, slapped a number of them on the chest, and ran back up the hill to stop and stare at them.  She had to stare before she could talk.  She winded herself and had to catch her breath.

The samurai did not know what to do other than shout.  Boston had removed her glamour of humanity, so she stood there in her red-headed, skinny elf glory.  Her eyes shifted from face to face, and then she spoke.  “What are you doing on my mountain?”  No man said a word.  “Speak, or I will taunt you again.”  She tried not to giggle at her memory of Monty Python.

One man stepped forward.  He bowed, not knowing what else to do.  “I am Aiko of the Taira, and our master owns all this land, and the mountain, though I suppose he may not argue about the mountain if you ask him.”  He bowed again.

“But what are you doing here?” she asked and thought of what Lockhart said.  “Who are you looking for?”

The men shuffled their feet.  Aiko looked around before he shook his head.  They would not say.

“Sukki,” Boston called.  She figured if their purpose was not nice, they would probably refuse to tell her.  Sukki flew in, but overhead she saw one of the samurai in the back of the group had an arrow on his bow and pointed it straight at Boston.  Suki threw one hand out.  She tried to cause the man to go unconscious, but she fried him and felt terrible about it when the man screamed and collapsed.

“Boston?” Sukki asked.  Boston gave Sukki a hug, which she needed.

“These men won’t tell me why they are here,” Boston moped.  Sukki simply had to look at the men and Aiko spouted.

“Taira no Tadamori is deathly ill, and Taira no Hideko needs to be told.  Her brother Kiyomori sent us to fetch her, if she will come,” the man lied, and Boston knew it was a lie.  She had to think of what to do, but only took a second.

“Aiko.  You must come with us.  The rest of you need to wait here no matter how long it takes.  Come.  Don’t make me tell you again.”

Aiko reluctantly followed as they quickly moved out of sight from the men, among the trees.  When they got to where the screens projected, Boston kept back and let Aiko walk into the screens.  Sukki walked right in, having a disc, but Aiko could not proceed.  Boston smiled and handed the man the disc she had been given to come and go through the projection.

“This is a magic token that will let you enter the place of mystery.  Guard it with your life.”  She gave him the disc and he walked right through the place where he had previously been stopped.  Wonder filled the man’s eyes, as Boston phased through the screens and Sukki ran ahead to tell everyone to remove their glamours.  Sukki had put hers on, so she looked like a Neanderthal.

“Ameratsu protect me,” the man whispered as he came face to face with Alexis.

“Ameratsu was a very nice girl,” Alexis said, and smiled for the man.

“I remember Ameratsu,” Boston piped up.  “That was ages ago.”

The man trembled.

###

Lockhart and Katie came into a meadow where they found some blue tinted people.  The people looked scared and stopped to face these new people.  Lockhart and Katie hardly knew what to think before a woman in her mid-to-late forties stood up from the grass where she had been completely hidden.  She held something like a pole with a curved sword attached to one end.  She spun the pole and stepped up to hug Lockhart and Katie and she shouted.

“It’s all right.  You can all get up.  These are friends.”  She turned to the blue skinned people.  “You need to keep walking.  We need to get to the school by sundown.”

“Hideko?”  Lockhart asked, Lincoln not being there.

Hideko nodded and yelled.  “Gozen.”  Two young girls answered.  The older one said, “What?” rather sharply.  “The young one said, “Here I am,” sweetly.  They attended Hideko, and Kate widened her eyes.

“Two elect.  You have two elect in your school?”  Katie was surprised.

“And you are one of us,” the elder Gozen said.  The younger one just stared.

Katie pointed to the younger one.  “I could still see you when you were hiding.”

“She is young.  Just learning,” Hideko said and reached out to hug the girl.  “This is Hangaku.  The grumpy older one is Tomoe.  Where is Boston?”

“Back in the camp,” Lockhart said.  “You have warriors sneaking around.  Boston and Sukki went to check on the humans.  Decker and Tony checked on the aliens.”

“Ouran soldiers hunting down escaped slaves,” Katie remembered.

Hideko understood.  She turned to the girls waiting in the field, and the bluish people that had paused in the field.  “Ladies.  Take these refugees to the school and let them rest in the open room until I get there.”  She said more quietly.  “Gozens, stay with me.” and to Lockhart, “Lead the way.”

Avalon 8.10 Refugees, part 1 of 4

4-posts this week for the entire episode.  Don’t miss Thursday’s post.  Enjoy.

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After 1111 A.D. Japan

Kairos 108: Taira no Hideko

Recording …

Boston, Alexis, and Nanette with help from Alexis, all applied magical glamours to themselves, so they appeared Asian, if not Japanese.  Elder Stow, who already wore a glamour, looked like an old man, with gray hair and a gray beard, and naturally bushy eyebrows which disguised his natural features enough to pass among the people without any serious notice.  These four entered villages when necessary to trade for what they needed, sometimes trading a whole deer for enough fresh fruit and vegetables for a couple of days.

The travelers otherwise camped in the wilderness.  They avoided cities and towns, and the others even avoided the villages when they could.  Lockhart, Lincoln, Tony, and Sukki looked odd and would have raised too many questions in town.  Even changing their fairy weave to imitate the native clothing style and wearing big hats could only do so much.  Lincoln did know of a CIA safe house on the route they traveled.  He stayed there a couple of times, though it technically would not be built until over eight hundred years in the future.  They could not avoid some small, provincial villages where there was no one to question them, but there was little or nothing they could do about Katie’s blonde hair, or Decker being black.  They all felt sure word went around about very odd people riding through the provinces.  They only hoped they could get to the next time gate before they got tangled up by the authorities and forced to answer questions that would be very difficult to answer.

Alone in the wilderness, Lincoln had plenty of time to report to the others without unauthorized, listening ears.  “Taira No Hideko.  Her father, Tadamori, is head of the Taira clan, or her younger half-brother Kiyomori is in charge, depending on when we arrived.  The Taira is one of the big, important warrior clans in this age along with the Fujiwara and Minamoto clans.  Unfortunately, Tadamori was only sixteen at the time, and the lowly servant girl he got pregnant was sixteen.  He tried to hide the girl away.  She had a girl, Hide—Hideko, Princess.  But eventually, Tadamori’s father, Taira no Masamori, the head of the clan at the time found out.  He sent men to the hideout and had the young woman killed.  They did not find the baby, however.  Tadamori’s agent spirited her away and placed her with an old woman in the western highlands of Ise province, just over the hill on the border with Iga province.  Ise was one of the provinces the Taira controlled.  Iga had a different clan.”  He paused to think a moment.  “Apparently, the provinces were originally controlled and named by the clan that controlled it and constituted the clan’s territory, subject to the approval of the emperor, of course.”

“I must say,” Katie interrupted.  “You are doing much better with the Japanese name than you did with the Arabic names.”

“Yeah,” Lincoln confessed.  “I started with the CIA in Okinawa and Japan, and a bit in South Korea, but I really did not fit in.  I got transferred to South America where I rode horses and donkeys in the mountains, mostly looking for drug dealers.  That was the early seventies and where I met Debbie Watson at some archeological dig in the Andes.  She introduced me to Lockhart and Jax, the director of the Men in Black.  I got offered a job.”

“What enticed you to leave the CIA?” Katie asked.

“I still technically work for, or maybe I’m affiliated with the CIA, but Lockhart offered me a desk where I would not have to go off on any adventures or be shot at.”  People laughed.  This whole adventure through time sometimes felt like one big shooting adventure.

Tony had a question.  “Do you speak any Korean?”

“Yeah,” Lincoln said.  “Kim.  They are all named Kim, or near enough, and Kimchi.  I assume that is the chi that belongs to Kim, though I am not a big fan of hundred-year-old fermented cabbage.”

“Lincoln,” Boston protested his political incorrectness.  Alexis nudged him.

“Hideko,” Lockhart said, wanting them back on topic.

“Yeah,” Lincoln agreed.  “The old woman that raised Hideko ran a school on the mountain where she trained mostly noble women in the martial arts.  Onna-musha means women samurai, or maybe onna-bugeisha, women martial artist, whatever.  Anyway, I don’t know if her father deliberately picked such a school, but I am sure he felt she needed to learn to defend herself.  Anyway, her father died in 1159.  I don’t know where we are in her timeline, but her younger, legitimate half-brother, Kiyomori took over the clan.  He went too far in his greed for power.  It did not end well.  But about that time, the old woman died, and Hideko inherited the whole side of the mountain, and the school, and she began to teach the women how to distract the men with entertainments and the ordinary people, men and women, how through stealth and subterfuge, and eventually assassination, they could defend their isolated villages from marauders and wandering armies.”

“Wait,” Katie interrupted again.  “Ninjas?”

Lincoln nodded.  “And the foundation for the geishas that developed in the following centuries.  Hideko started painting her face white, with blood red lips and eyes because it made her look like a ghost or skeleton and unnerved her enemies.”

“Why are you surprised?” Lockhart asked Katie.

“I’m not, really,” she said.  “But I have been surprised in this journey how some things develop so slowly, maybe organically, like Bronze.  It took almost two thousand years for the making of bronze to reach all the way around the world.  But then other things take only a nudge from the Kairos to get things started. It still happens organically, I suppose, but the direction gets set by the Kairos early on, like the development of Amazons in the west.  It has been fascinating to watch.”

“Hold up,” Elder Stow called for everyone’s attention.  He stared at his scanner where a yellow light flashed.  “I’m picking up aliens, the same kind as the cyborg in the last time zone.  They seem to be in two groups, in both directions from the camp.”  He adjusted his scanner.  “And what looks like a large group of humans off that way.”  He pointed.  “From the metal they are carrying, I would guess they are soldiers of some kind.”

“Great,” Boston yelled.  “We’re surrounded.”

Elder Stow nodded and turned on his screen device so none of the groups could get at them, and Lockhart decided.  “Lincoln, you stay here behind the desk with Alexis and Nanette and pack up lunch.  We want to get to Hideko’s school before dark.  Elder Stow, you need to monitor our progress from here with your scanner and inform us if you see something amiss.  Boston and Sukki, be sneaky.  Check out the human group and see if you can check out what they are doing, or maybe who they are looking for, but stay hidden and come back to report.  Decker, north or south?”

“South,” Decker said.  “South is my natural tendency.”

“Take Tony and check out the southern aliens.  Don’t engage unless you have to.  Kate and I will take the northern group.”

“Wait,” Elder stow insisted.  He tuned a number of discs and handed one to each.  “This will allow you to pass through the screen, but this way, we can keep the screen activated and keep out whatever may be following you.”

Boston took a disc, though she could phase through the screen without needing a disc.  She nodded, tapped Sukki on the arm and headed off into the woods.  Alexis and Nanette gathered the horses while Lincoln prepared to hitch-up Ghost.  Elder Stow put out the lunch fire but kept one eye on his scanner where he could follow the others.  He looked once around the camp, but the three groups were already gone.  He considered his position and thought he better say something.

“Decker.  You appear to have an alien shuttle in your direction.  Landed, but be careful.”

“Roger,” Tony answered, and Elder Stow fretted.

Avalon 8.9 Metal Men, part 4 of 4

Baron Edgar stopped in the street where he had to shout to get everyone’s attention.  “My lord, Duke William.  My lord Roger de Montgomery.  I have a surprise for you.”

John was in front of the duke and did not move.  Lockhart and Decker stepped up to the two sides of the duke so he could not go around.  Decker had his rifle and Lockhart had his shotgun ready.  Duke William glanced at the two big men and decided to take the veiled warning seriously.  He would keep his distance and return the shout.

“Edgar.  You served well in bringing peace to Normandy.  What is it you want?”  He asked because his nobles always seemed to want something.

“Englebroad.  What is it you want?” Katie shouted.  She saw Baron Edgars face considerably brighten as he recognized who he was looking at.

“Ah!  The Travelers from Avalon.  Such good fortune,” he said, as Hubert and Bernard scooted up to the wagon and behind the oxen for as much cover as they could find.  They had crossbows, but they stopped near the limit of their range.  They knew the weapons the travelers carried had a much longer range.  “But you will have no time for that hated Gott-Druk to set his screens, unless he wants to slice through the buildings and people.”

“What are your intentions?” Lockhart yelled.

Baron Edgar positively grinned.  “My intention is to delete William and Roger de Montgomery so Normandy is thrown into chaos and England will never be invaded.  England will remain a squabbling, broken, one might say war-like tribal nation for centuries.  It will never become an empire and spread that cursed Western Christian Civilization around the world.  The Masters prefer that ignorance, superstition, and a decided lack of science continue in most of the world for the foreseeable future.  Killing you travelers will just be a bonus.”

The wagon shook so hard, it almost lost a wheel.  Something stepped from behind and came up alongside Edgar.  The doctor came with the thing, though he kept back.  The two guards that brought the wagon took one look at the thing and ran off screaming.  People stared.  It looked nearly human, but it had metal parts everywhere, which made it look more like a robot.

“Cyborg,” John said.

“Makes sense of Elder Stow’s mixed readings,” Lincoln mumbled.

Decker took a shot at the thing, but it appeared to have a personal shield and rejected the bullet.  Edgar pointed at the blacksmith shop and said something the others could not hear.  Katie shouted.

“Look Out.  Incoming.”

People ducked and got behind something, including the two from Brittany who evidently heard that phrase before.  William stood staring, so John tackled him.  The cyborg raised his hand and fired three bursts of flaming red laser-like power at the shop.  Gerald got fried.  The furnace blew up.  A wagon beside the entrance also blew up and sent splinters everywhere.  Boston got a splinter the size of her pinky finger driven into her thigh.  The others got pounded with wood and metal, but because of the armor they wore, or the thickened fairy weave, the shrapnel did not penetrate.

John got off William.  He had called his armor before he tackled his Duke.  Now he knelt behind a pole that held up the roof and watched, and William looked over his shoulder.

Edgar pointed again and this time, he spoke up.  “Destroy the shop and kill everyone in it.”  The cyborg lifted both arms, but it appeared he needed to build up his energy to make a massive blast at the shop.  By then, Elder Stow was ready.

Elder Stow, with Sukki and Tony, had gone unnoticed by the servants of the masters.  He pulled out the disc he used earlier on Sukki and Boston.  It did not take long to magnetize the disc, and he threw it, even as Baron Edgar pointed.  The disc bounced, but the magnet caught, and the disc raced to attach itself to the cyborg’s metal leg.  Elder Stow turned on the screens, and the cyborg looked down at its own leg, even as Edgar shouted.  The screens cut off Edgar’s right arm which plopped to the ground outside the circle of the screen.

The cyborg may have recognized something about the disc, though it hardly had time to analyze it.  It may have sensed the screens that sprang up around it, but it may have been too late to stop the discharge of its weapon.  Either that, or it may have set its weapon off assuming it would break through the screens, or maybe in an attempted suicide.  No telling how much the cyborg enhanced mind calculated in that short amount of time.  Neither John nor the travelers had any idea what the cyborg may have been feeling, or how it was being controlled, most likely against its will.

The red energy blast stayed inside the screens and perfectly outlined the globe.  The ground beneath the Cyborg’s feet churned and some stones exploded and became like magma.  The air inside the globe turned red.  No one could see inside, but it did not last long.  The red energy stopped at once and Elder Stow shook his screen device and shrugged.

Baron Edgar appeared to be no more than charred bones that collapsed to the ground in a crumpled heap.  The cyborg melted almost everywhere, and the flesh elements, including brains and other organs, burned completely to ash to blow away in the wind.

Hubert and Bernard stood with their mouths hanging open.  “Major,” Decker yelled, and shot Bernard.  Hubert started to run, so Decker shot him as well.  Katie had the scope on her rifle.  She spied the doctor down the street.  He turned away, hoping to get lost among the early risers, but Katie aimed, and shot the man.  He went down and she ran to him, to make sure he was dead.  “How many times do I have to kill this man?” she asked herself.

Decker went out to check on Hubert and Bernard.  Alexis and Lincoln checked on Boston.  Alexis sent Lincoln to borrow Eder Stows device that could extract the thorn without further injuring Boston’s leg.  John and William walked out to meet Elder Stow, Tony, and Sukki who hovered over the bones of Baron Edgar and the remains of the cyborg.  Roger de Montgomery, Sir Guy, and the Brits, Sir Richard and Sir Hugh came behind.

“Remarkable body armor,” William said about the cyborg.

John looked at him.  “I would have guessed you would go for the weapon.”

“No,” William said, sounding certain.  “A weapon is only good if you know how to use it, and only as good as the man using it.  That takes special skill and knowledge.  But armor is something a man does not have to make for himself, and good armor makes sure that good man can use that good weapon.”

“There is logic in that,” Roger said as he came up.

“Yes, but sadly this armor is something we cannot make in our best foundry, much less in a simple blacksmith shop.  I do know a little about metal and what can be worked,” John said as Elder Stow interrupted him.

“A-ha.  Here it is.”  He had made a fairy weave glove because the cyborg metal would take a while to cool.  He used a stick, which caught fire, but extracted his disc from what was left of the cyborg’s leg.  “Dead as one of your doornails.  I can do that a bit over a dozen times and then I will be out of discs.”

“Hope you don’t have to do that again,” John said.

“So.”  William moved on to the next subject.  “Tell me abut Edgar.  He did support me in my early days.”

“He wanted to be sure you became the ruler of Normandy so when he killed you it would throw everything into chaos,” John said.

“And these people?” Roger asked.

“Connected,” John answered.  “Complicated and hard to believe.”

Lockhart spoke.  “Our home is a thousand years in the future,” he said.  “Edgar or Engle, or whatever name he is using, has another life in the future as well and he is not a good person there, either.  Our job is to help clean out time and make sure the bad guys don’t win.”

Lincoln got Elder Stow’s attention, saying Boston had a splinter in her leg that long.  He showed with his hands.

“Boston,” Sukki said, and ran to the shop, turning on a little speed.  Elder Stow, Lincoln, and Tony walked there.

Scripture tells us sometimes we entertain angels unaware,” John said.  “Well, I think sometimes we entertain demons unaware as well.  You never know.”

###

John de Belleme, alias Ernulf de Hesdin rode north with Richard and two dozen men of Brittany and two dozen Normans sent by William.  They would stop at Edgar’s place.  John felt sure the cyborg crashed somewhere around that spot.

William agreed to sail up the coast with his Normans, any others who might join him from Brittany, and any men the King of France might send and meet John and the men of Flanders at St. Valery sur Somme.  He hoped a contingent of men from the Holy Roman Empire might join them.  The emperor agreed to the plan.  No telling how it was explained to the man.  The Pope was being a stickler, but William imagined the Pope would come around when he succeeded.

That gave John the whole month of August to find the crashed ship and deal with whatever else needed to be delt with in Edgar’s place.

Hugh kept the three hundred, and when the ships arrived, he loaded them for the trip to St. Valery so the ships could be sent back to be used again.  Hugh imagined wherever they landed across the channel on the English shore, they would need the ships to shuttle supplies from the continent.

Meanwhile, an elder Knight by the name of Alan led the travelers into Brittany and used their trip to try and drum up support for William’s invasion of England.  It was not easy.  The Angles, Saxons and Brits were trading partners, but Brittany was more invested in Cornwall, Wales, and Ireland, so it was not impossible, and some gathered for the fight.

Alan was apparently an old friend of John’s father, Oliver.  Alan’s son, Flaad, was part of the John, Richard, and Hugh circle of friends, and he shared some stories about John, a few of which the travelers did not necessarily need to know.

Finally, when the travelers found the time gate and prepared to go through, Lincoln complained about their alien encounter.  “We just got rid of Apes and Flesh Eaters, and we get thrust into cyborgs and genetically altered people.”

Katie explained.  She and Lockhart talked to John before he rode off and he tried to explain the basics for them.  “Their world got invaded, but they were sort of like us with many nations.  They needed help defending their planet, but two different nations came up with two different solutions.  One altered their own genes to produce super smart super soldiers.  The other made men into cyborgs.  Both easily threw the invaders off their planet, but now they are fighting each other.  They have about killed their own planet, and with the space technology they garnered from their invaders, they are spreading their fight into nearby space.”

“Great,” Lincoln said in his sarcastic best voice.  “I can’t wait to meet some super soldiers.”

“Ha!” Boston laughed her fake laugh and rubbed her leg where she had been wounded.”

“Come on,” Sukki called to Boston, and they moved into the next time zone.

************************

MONDAY

Another 4-part episode with posts on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

The travelers find themselves in Feudal Japan at the beginning of the age of the Samurai and the Shogun, and they run into some of those alien super soldiers Lincoln is worried about.  Until then,  Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 8.9 Metal Men, part 3 of 4

Three well-armed lords rode up to the blacksmith shop shortly after sunrise.  John sat at the stone and sharpened the sword, one side and the other, and ignored the riders.  The men tied their horses to the railing that made the small penned in area where John and his men’s horses waited.  The three wandered into the smithy area and the gruff one spoke.

“Blacksmith.  Sir Guy’s horse appears to have picked up a stone.”  He paused and watched John put the finishing touches on sharpening the sword and asked a question.  “How much do you charge for sharpening a sword, and maybe a knife as well?”

John looked and paused a moment as his mind figured out who was talking to him.  Meanwhile, the one John figured was Sir Guy pointed at the horses in the pen and identified them as Flemish horses.  “I recognize the saddles,” he said.

“I’m not sure,” John said, coyly.  The blacksmith came out of the back room and Gerald, the apprentice, paused in whatever he was doing to join his master.  “Blacksmith.  What do you charge for sharpening the instruments of war?”

The blacksmith took one look at his three guests and bowed deeply.  Gerald bowed half-heartedly, not sure what was going on.  “My lords, it would be an honor to prepare your weapons for battle.”

“Now, none of that,” John said.  “A man is worthy of his labor.  Your normal price will do.”  He turned to shout toward the side of the back building.  “Richard.”  A man dressed in Flemish armor stuck his head around the edge of the building.  “Hugh, fetch Sir Richard.”  Hugh waved and disappeared for a moment.  He came back with another man who did not appear to be awake.

John swung the sword in the air with some evident skill.  He liked the feel of the weapon and handed it to Richard with a word.  “There.  This beast of a sword will take off a Saxon head and not break in the process.”

Richard took the sword and smiled.  Then he woke up enough to see the three lords staring at him.  He gasped and bowed like the blacksmith.  “Duke William,” he said.  The three men said nothing, but the third man, who had said nothing so far, stared at John like he was trying to figure something out.  John helped the man out.

“Hello Uncle Roger,” John said.  “How is Aunt Mabel?”

“Oliver’s son,” Roger responded without a smile.

“You know this blacksmith?” William asked.

“Blacksmith John.  That’s me, though Father always insisted on the name John de Bellleme.”

Something clicked in William’s mind as Sir Guy spoke.  “But you are not Flemish.”

“Well,” John said as he dipped his hands in the water barrel and splashed his face to clean off some soot.  “I am sort of Flemish at this point, or at least my wife is.  Emmelina is the grandniece of Baldwin one or two times removed.  You see, Uncle Baldwin—my wife’s uncle—gave me a new name.  I think he wanted to cover up the details of our background, but I told him it would not do him any good.  My father is still Oliver de Belleme, but now it is Walter de Hesdin.  Baldwin made him the Comte of Hesdin.  I am officially Ernulf de Hesdin, and will no doubt inherit the lands if my Father dies before me.”

“Why are you here?”  Uncle Roger did not look happy, and added the words, “Bastard son of a bastard son.”

“Careful.”  John looked at William.  He grinned a little and William had to cover his own grin.  “My Lord Duke.  I have some three hundred men from Brittany, my old stomping ground, camped on the West side of town.  They are under the command of my childhood friends, Richard and Hugh.  I have ships on the way, and the men of Flanders are gathering at St. Valery sur Somme on the coast, and a bunch of more ships.  You know, you put Uncle Baldwin in an awkward position.  He has supported the Anglo-Saxon crown for years, though mostly as an ally against invading Norsemen and Danes.  He wants to support you in your quest, but he honestly cannot do so directly.  So, he decided since my father is of Norman blood, he should represent Flanders and lead those who will join on this adventure.  Sadly, my father is talking about going into a monastery since my stepmother, Emma died.  Thus, it fell upon my shoulders to lead this charge.”

“How many men are we talking about?” Sir Guy wanted to know.

“At least a thousand,” John said, but his eyes remained on William.  “Uncle Baldwin does want to support you as much as he can, if not the least for the sake of his daughter, your wife Matilda.  He told me to ask how she is doing, by the way.”

William was thinking, but he came out of his reverie to say, “Fine.  She is doing well.”

“The old man can only do so much,” John said.  “But he clearly cares about his children, and his extended family.  Meanwhile, the old man’s son is a piece of cow manure.  I am sure when the old man dies, I will lose Hesdin.”  He stared at Roger.  “And be homeless once again.”

Roger said nothing, but William had something to say.  “You give me good service, you and the men of Flanders, and the men of Brittany.”  He paused to include Richard and Hugh.  “And I will see that you are not left homeless.”

“Yes, your majesty.  Thank you, your majesty,” John said, and to Roger’s and Sir Guy’s curious stares, he explained, “Just practicing.”  William let out the full grin when a red-headed young woman ran up and hugged him.  She went around the shop hugging every man in the shop.  When she got to John, John said, “Ugh,”

Boston backed up, pointed at him, and said, “You must be John.”

“Ugh,” John repeated and waved.  “Lockhart, good and bad timing as usual.  There is nothing history shattering going on at the moment, but in two or three days, I have three hundred men who will be taking ship for St. Valery sur Somme on the coast of Flanders.  I hope the time gate won’t end up somewhere out in the channel.”

Lockhart and Katie, Lincoln and Alexis, Decker and Nanette all arrived.  They walked at a casual pace but came armed and ready.  Sukki, Tony, and Elder Stow straggled behind.  Lockhart took up the telling.

“We spent the last three days following Englebroad, Hoffen, and Budman from Charlemagne’s day, and when we got to town, we found the same doctor from Constantinople and also from Genevieve’s day, so that would make this at least his third lifetime.  Don’t know what name he goes by in this time zone.”

Katie clarified.  “Baron Edgar, his two knights, Hubert and Bernard, and the doctor.”

“Edgar?” William asked and looked up at Katie before he turned to look at John.

John shook his head.  “They have to be prevented from whatever they are plotting.  Well, at least there are no alien people this time.”

“Not true,” Decker said.

Lincoln spoke.  “Elder Stow picked up an unknown life form on his scanner, and a bunch of electronic-type equipment, but it is in a covered wagon and so far, we have not been able to get a look to see what it is.”

“My guess is the doctor has been keeping it alive, whatever it is,” Alexis said.

“Damn,” John said

“What?” William asked, like he might demand an answer if one was not forthcoming.  Roger and Sir Guy had the same look on their faces.

“It is kind of difficult to explain,” Lockhart said, as he looked back and saw Tony and Suki stopped to watch a stall being set up in front of a jewelry shop.  Elder Stow stopped with them.  He looked further and saw Baron Edgar, his two knights, a couple of soldiers, and the wagon on the road.  “Damn,” he said it himself.

************************

Don’t Forget Tomorrow’s post to end the episode

*

Avalon 8.9 Metal Men, part 2 of 4

Lord John Ernulf de Belleme de Hesdin came in the night and took over a local blacksmith shop shortly before dawn.  He decided the half-dozen men who rode in with him needed better weapons.  One in particular needed a sword that would not crack on first contact, and John was an excellent blacksmith.

‘I learned many things growing up on the road with my father.  Blacksmithing is a good and honorable trade,” he told the blacksmith as he worked on the sword.  “My father was an illegitimate son, and so was I, but I find John the Blacksmith a much better name than John the Bastard.  I’ll let Duke William keep that title.  Honestly, I like to believe my father would have married my mother, but the times being what they are… She got raped and killed by one of the armies that went through the neighborhood.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”  The man had some sympathy.

“Well…”  John shrugged.  “So, my uncle, my father’s younger brother, threw his father, my grandfather off the land and took over.  My poor grandfather wandered for a long time and took my aunt with him.  Father and I wandered in the opposite direction, because, frankly, my grandfather got what was coming to him.  Everybody hated the man.  He was cruel, mean, rotten, just plain evil… I believe my aunt is worse.  She learned from the master and is trying to outdo him.”

“So, they settled somewhere,” the blacksmith pointed out.

“Oh, yeah.  Those two conniving, manipulative jerks wouldn’t stay down.  No.  Grandfather put my aunt in an advantageous marriage.  He promised the man’s family the land if they helped him get it back.  Fat chance they would ever get the land if he got it back, but they had the connections.  You know what I mean?  So suddenly, my father’s younger brother mysteriously dies at a fairly young age, and grandfather gets the land back.”

“And you did not go home?”

“Not a chance,” John said.  “Grandfather got ill.  No one has heard from him, or anything about him in these last five years.  My aunt rules the house and my father and I get nothing.”

“Your father’s name?”

“Oliver.  Well.  We left Brittany and crossed over the land by way of Paris.  Ever been to Paris?  The place stinks.  I went looking for artisans on the left bank.  All I found was manure.  On the left bank, the right bank, mucking up the river.  Hey, if you ever go there, don’t drink the water.”  John paused to let out a little laugh and hammer the metal.  He dunked it, making a great volume of steam.  “Needs sharpening.”

“But what happened?” the blacksmith asked.  “How dd you come to be here?”

“Eh?”  John had to think.  “Well, first we went to Brittany.  We wandered through Normandy, stayed away from the troubles in Maine, and went back to Brittany.  I made friends there and we were not unhappy, but when we heard grandfather was sick, I think my aunt wanted us out of the picture.  We escaped to France and eventually got to Flanders.  There, we lucked out.  We got a piece of land.  All Father had to do was marry the niece of the landowner.  She was a big, fat, hard to look at girl that nobody wanted.  Emma.  But she turned out to be a very nice, kind, and gentle soul.  I guess you really can’t tell by appearances.  Anyway, she got sick, and when she died, Father mourned her.  He is seriously talking about becoming a monk.  Go figure.”

“But why are you here?”

“Well.  Father and I helped William a couple of times in his days of trouble.  I was young, but Father supported the duke.  He would not remember me, but Father said William was gruff and greedy, but a loyal lord who actually cares about his people.  You don’t mind fighting for a man like him.  Most Lords are just greedy.  They know nothing about being faithful or caring for others.  I’m not saying William is perfect, but what else am I doing with my life?  If I am going to fight for someone…” he did not finish the sentence.  “William is attempting to achieve something great.  Let’s say I want to see how it is going to turn out.”

“But, what about the Flemish landowner? Might you fight for him?”

John thought for a second.  “Yeah, maybe,” he said.  “He was nice to us, but he is old.  Probably doesn’t have many years left, and his son is a different breed.  I don’t know about him.  Besides, the landowner is getting more out of the deal than just getting my father to marry a poor unwanted girl.”

“What?”

“He knows my father will keep my aunt, and by extension, her husband away from his land.  He knows if his land gets invaded, my father and I will be first in line to drive the invaders out.  We will do it by ourselves if we have to.”

The blacksmith sat for a while thinking about what John told him.  John picked up the sword and swung it a couple of times.  He about decided he and the sword were ready for round two when the man asked a question.  “You are obviously young and very strong.  I have no doubt you are a great fighter.  But how can you and your father drive invaders from the land by yourselves.  And who is your aunt and her husband to have such men to invade a land in the first place.”

“Hey, Gerald.  Pump up the heat on the furnace, will you?”

“Yes, Lord John.”

“Lord John?”

John wiped his hands on a cloth.  “I guess I didn’t explain that part well.  Maybe because it doesn’t matter to me.  I told the important parts.  My name is John, but also Ernulf de Hesdin.  I was given the Ernulf name by the landowner.  It was his grandfather’s name.  My father is the Count of Hesdin, but he was only made the count by Baldwin V of the House of Flanders six years ago.  Until then he was Oliver de Belleme.  Mable de Belleme is my aunt, and her husband is Roger de Montgomery who grew up with William as one of the duke’s best friends.  I met Roger once.  He seemed very nice.  I’m so sorry he married my aunt.”  John looked carefully at the lines of the blade to be sure the blade was straight and knick free.  He tested the weight and balance by feel.

“The Flemish and Normans have had a kind of love-hate relationship for years.  Baldwin would rather not fight another Norman invasion of his lands.  Heck, he gave his daughter Matilda to William for a wife, just to make peace.  But then, Baldwin never expected William to set his sights on England.  Baldwin has been a great supporter of the Anglo-Saxon throne in England for a long time.  It is a quandary for him, but he figures since I am originally of Belleme blood, I can take a reasonable number of men and give Flanders a good showing in the invasion force.”  John shrugged.

“My Lord,” the blacksmith tried to bow, but John yelled.

“Stop that.  Between you and me I am Blacksmith John, and that is enough.”  He huffed as he stepped to the stone.  “Mind you, I wouldn’t mind if you cleaned the handle.  This blade is almost ready.”

“Certainly,” the blacksmith said.

###

Back in the traveler’s camp, Boston got up with the sun.  She felt good.  Madam Figiori explained to her that light elves lived from dawn to dusk.  They got up a little before the sun rose and went to bed a little after the sunset.  The dark time was the time for sleep, even in the north country where the dark time might be fourteen or more hours in the winter.  That was sleep time.  Boston understood that, instinctively, but no one ever explained it to her before in so many words.  In their short time together, Madam Figiori explained a lot of things out loud that Boston felt but never actually verbalized.

“Come on, sleepy,” Sukki poked her head in the tent.  “You are going to miss the sunrise.”

Boston sprang out of bed and went first to the fire.  She put on a log and caused the flame to make a good start while Sukki prepared the pot of fake-coffee-tea.  To be honest, Sukki did not exactly know what coffee was, but from the way Lockhart and the others talked about it, she was looking forward to trying some—that and chocolate.

Boston and Sukki sat facing the east where the sun rose.  Elder Stow decided against a nap that morning.  He worked on his screen device instead.  For the present, his scanner was functioning about as well as could be expected for a toy.  But there were still several adjustments he wanted to work into the screens.  A Decker wall, for instance.  He also had a thought and decided to experiment.  He tuned one of his discs and tossed it beside the girls and waited.  He tried not to whistle.

Boston and Sukki were not impressed with that particular sunrise.  It was plain, about a five or six, and Sukki suggested it might have been better rising over the sea.  Boston shrugged and got up.  She headed toward the fire but banged her head into the screen.  She shouted.

“Hey, Elder Stow.”  She scolded the elder as Sukki got up to feel all around where the screen projected.  They appeared to be trapped in a complete bubble.  They could stand and walk a few paces in each direction, but it was like a screen prison.  Of course, Boston could phase right through the screens, which she did as Sukki complained.

“Father.  I have to get the food started.”

Elder Stow stood there, grinning.  He held the screen device in his hand and Boston wondered if he had some way of projecting the screen.

“How did you…” Boston started to ask how he did that, but the answer came to her, so she turned to Sukki.  “Look at your feet,” she said.  “Look for a disc.  He tuned the disc to the screen device.  I didn’t know he could do that, but that must be it.”

Suki looked around her feet.  Elder Stow quickly turned off the screen device and said, “Careful. The discs are very sturdy, fireproof, crush proof and all that, but they can be broken.  We have a limited number and may need them in the future.”  He walked to where the disc landed and retrieved it.

Sukki smiled for him.  “You are the most brilliant father a girl ever had,” she said and kissed his cheek before she went to work on the food.

Boston already flitted to a new topic in her elf mind.  “I’m going to go invisible today and see what is in that wagon.  Want to come?”

Elder Stow and Sukki looked at each other.  They did not think that was a good idea.  Elder Stow spoke.  “It would be dangerous with that doctor and Engel, Hoffen and Budman around.  We should at least wait until everyone can discuss their ideas.”

Boston flitted on, like it was a done deal.  She pulled out her amulet, her morning habit, though in this case she was not double-checking their direction.  Instead, she wanted to see how far away the Kairos was.  She jumped.  “Hey! The Kairos is already in town.  He must have come in overnight.”

“Stay,” Sukki yelled in case Boston was thinking about racing across town.  She put her hands up like a traffic cop.

Elder Stow agreed.  “Wait until the others are up and have their breakfast.  Then we can all go there together.”

Boston harumphed and went to the tents to begin waking people up.

Avalon 8.9 Metal Men, part 1 of 4

A whole episode this week in just 4 posts, with posts Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Enjoy.

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After 1045 A.D. Normandy

Kairos 107: Blacksmith John.

Recording …

Boston and Sukki sat uphill, among the rocks, and spied on the train of soldiers.  Sir Bernard, alias Budman, and Sir Hubert, alias Hoffen, both servants of the Masters from Genevieve’s day led the procession.  A dozen soldiers on horseback who appeared well turned out followed the knights.  The girls could tell the soldiers knew their business by the way they kept their horses in line.  A covered wagon followed them all.

“Elder Stow’s scan shows an alien in the wagon and a bunch of electronic equipment,” Boston whispered, though it was unlikely they would have been heard or noticed unless they shouted.

Sukki nodded to say she heard that.  “I wish we could see inside the wagon.” Sukki spoke in her softest voice.  She was still learning to whisper.

Boston nodded in return, but kept her eyes trained on the procession.  One man followed the wagon.  They could not see his face well since he hid it with his fancy hat and a veil of some sort.  They assumed he wore the veil because of the dust on the road, but they heard in several villages where they stopped that it was the Baron Edgar of Vilmont, an estate south of Rouen.  They followed him for two days, this being the third. They expected to reach the river Dives in the afternoon, the place where William was gathering his army for the invasion of England.

“I bet Baron Edgar is Englebroad, alias Engel Bronson, servant of the Masters,” Boston said.

“No bet,” Sukki said.  She had learned not to bet on something that Boston felt sure enough about to bet on. Boston was usually right.  “Come on,” she said, but waited.

Boston hesitated only to make sure the three riders behind the baron and the forty-four men marching in careful order behind the riders were all still there along with the three ox-drawn wagons that followed them all.  Then they went back to rejoin the others.

“We need to just do away with them,” Decker argued.

“We don’t know what their plans are,” Katie said.  “Worse may happen if we don’t know what they intend.”

“Or what they have up their sleeve,” Lockhart supported his wife.

“A wagon full of electronic equipment is troublesome, not to mention an unknown species of alien.” Elder Stow admitted.

Lincoln felt inclined to agree with Decker.  “The Kairos has told us any servants of the Masters have to be considered enemy combatants and need to be removed from this life.”

“Granted,” Katie said.  “But the alien makes that a problem.  They may have it restrained in some way or be controlling it somehow.”

“Or it may be a prisoner and under duress,” Alexis said.

“Elder Stow?” Decker turned to the Gott-Druk.

“No.  Only a small energy signal,” Elder Stow confessed.  “Maybe photon based so not putting out ambient radiation, but only enough for a hand weapon or two.  Nothing that may explode to any extent to be concerned about.  No bombs detected.”

Tony, who had not taken a side thought to point out one thing.  “But your scanner has not proved one hundred percent.  I know.  You call it a toy.  But in the last time zone, you thought a brigade of oncoming Wolv might be a herd of deer.”

“True enough,” Elder Stow admitted.  “But it is very good at reading energy signatures and metal content.  It is honestly a survey tool not the best at reading disparate life signs.”

“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Lockhart said.  “We will take care of the servants of the Masters, but first we have to figure out what to do about the alien and whatever equipment it is carrying.”  He turned to Boston and Sukki as they rode up.  “What did you see?”

“They are still plodding along on the main road and should stop for lunch in an hour or so, to get into town just before sundown.  If we hurry, we should be able to use this cutoff road and get into town well ahead of them.  That should give us time to get settled and be ready when they arrive.  I figure that is the plan.”

“The town is probably full of soldiers,” Decker said.

“Getting settled might not be so easy,” Katie agreed with that.

“So, let’s get moving.  The sooner we get there, the more time we have to work things out.”

###

They arrived in the town of Dives and found the soldiers were just beginning to gather so it was not overwhelmed with several thousand men at the moment.  The rooms at the inns in town, including, and maybe especially the inns by the docks were already full or booked, but one innkeeper had a big yard by the beach and the sea which he gladly rented to the travelers so they could put up their tents.  He also sold them plenty of feed for Ghost and the horses, of course at premium prices.  He even had firewood at a price, but Sukki calculated it would cost more to buy their own food and wood and cook themselves than it would to eat whatever the inn cooked for supper that evening.

“Not to mention the work involved in cooking it for ourselves,” Alexis said.  The women agreed.  The men needed to take them out to eat while they were in town.

That afternoon, Boston told everyone that the Kairos would be there tomorrow, probably sometime in the morning.

People understood, and as Katie and Decker both looked at Lockhart, he said, “Unfortunately, depending on what we find out when the baron and his knights get here, we may have to act before the Kairos can be told.”   It was a concession to both sides, that they would try and find out what Baron Edgar had in mind, but by necessity, they might have to act sooner rather than later.  The alien and the electronic equipment they carried was the wild card in this whole thing.

As it turned out, the baron, Sir Bernard and Sir Hubert came strolling into town around sundown with three cavalry soldiers and the alien wagon.  They had prearranged rooms at one of the inns in town and a space for the wagon in the barn.  Apparently, they also prearranged a place on the edge of town for their men to camp, and they met a ship’s captain at their inn.

Alexis and Boston put on glamours to look like a mother and her daughter, with Boston taking special care to cover her red hair.  They went with Elder Stow, a grandfather looking sort of man in his glamour and gray hair and had supper that evening in that inn.  Grandfather had some local coppers to spend so he did not attract attention.  Boston eavesdropped on the baron’s conversation.  Alexis fingered her wand in the hope that she did not have to use it.  Elder Stow kept trying to get a better reading on whatever was in the barn.  He tried to look at his scanner in a subtle way, but he was not very subtle.

“I’ll tell you.”  The ship’s captain raised his voice.  Boston hardly needed elf ears to hear the man.  “I heard ships are coming from as far away as the Baltic.  They all want a piece of English loot and figure William has the best chance of taking the prize.”

That was about the best piece of information she came away with that evening, so after a supper of tough and rubbery chicken, she suggested they leave and try the barn.  They found two soldiers guarding the wagon.  Elder Stow realized that getting close did not help.  He could already identify the quantity and type of metal used down to the molecular level and got a good reading on the alien but could not tell what it looked like.  It seemed all that metal interfered with his scan.  Boston was not for giving up, so over Alexis’ objections, she talked to the guards.

“So, what is in the wagon?”  She pulled her top down to show a bit of breast, swayed a bit as she walked, and smiled to show her good teeth and bright eyes.  “It must be terribly important to be guarded by two such fine men.”

The men were stupid, as only men can be.  They returned her smile and opened up.  “A surprise present for Duke William.” one said.  “But you did not hear it from me.”

“Don’t honestly know,” the other said.  “But it is an animal of some kind.”

“Maybe a hunting dog,” one suggested.

“Maybe a wild and dangerous animal, like a bear or a lion.” the other said, trying to provoke a reaction out of Boston.  “It is a meat eater, whatever it is.”

“They wouldn’t keep an animal like that in the wagon.  At least not without a cage.  Besides, we would hear it.”

“It could be a cub.”

Boston regained their attention by merely leaning into the guard.  She patted his cheek and smiled the whole time.  “So, you haven’t seen it,” she said.

“No one has,” one guard admitted.

“That is why it is a secret,” the other guard said. “I think only the baron and the doctor know what it is.”

“Doctor?”  Alexis heard the word and asked, even as a man climbed out of the wagon.  She saw the man and turned away before the doctor got a good look at her.  She was less concerned about Boston who had to change her appearance considerably to appear like a sixteen-year-old Norman girl.  But she turned Elder Stow away so the doctor would only see him from the back and hopefully would not recognize hm.

Boston saw the man but did not break her stride.  She said good-bye to the guards, thanked them for being so sweet, and left them for the doctor to yell at them.  Back at the campground, Alexis got to name the man.

“Doctor Theobald, or Theopholus, or whatever name he has in this age.”

Boston said now she was curious.  She wanted to go invisible and go back to see what was in the wagon.  Elder Stow even volunteered to go with her, but everyone said no.  At that point, since the baron did not seem to be doing anything in the night, they also needed to get rested and tell the Kairos when he arrived, hopefully in the morning.

Avalon 8.8 The Bad Penny, part 6 of 6

The big ship overhead projected a greenish light on the Wolv below.  It took a few seconds.  The travelers saw many of the Wolv continue to struggle against the light, but eventually all within visual range collapsed.  Lockhart and Katie agreed that they were unconscious.  Decker said, “Darn.”

Giovanni and Leonora came up from the northeast gate where he and the circus people stood, ready to defend the gate if necessary.  Fortunately, it did not prove necessary.  Sibelius and Vadar, the knife thrower might have stood, briefly, but most, like Titania, would have not stopped any determined Wolv.

“Elenar,” Giovanni named the unfamiliar ship for the travelers.  He went to retrieve Elder Stow’s Communication device.  He needed to talk to the newcomers.

Tony asked, but since Lincoln was not there to look it up in the database, Lockhart had to dredge up the information in his memory from his Men in Black reading.  “They lived on earth more or less at the same time as the Neanderthals, that is, the Gott-Druk—Elder Stow’s people.  But where the Gott-Druk lived here in Europe and the Middle East, the Elenar lived more in Siberia, China, and Southeast Asia.  They got taken off the earth with Agdaline technology at the time of the flood, same as the Gott-Druk.  Early theories called them Cro Magnon or proto humans of some kind, but now the thinking is they are Denisova or Denisovan based on some specimens reported in the journals just before we left.  They look human enough even without a glamour, but they are more closely related to Neanderthals than us Homo Sapiens.  The man from the paleontology department who told me about the report said we will never know for sure unless we can sequence their DNA, whatever that means.”

Giovanni returned, speaking into the communicator, and followed closely by Elder Stow who did not want the Kairos to break it, again.  “Elenar.  This is the Kairos.  You do not belong here on this planet, but given the circumstances, I thank you for your timely arrival.  I will expect your representative in one earth hour.  Better come in the north gate.  The Wolv left plenty of bits and pieces of good men scattered around the battlefield, so you would need a strong stomach for the east gate.  One hour.”  He clicked it off and handed it back to Elder Stow with a word.  “See?  Didn’t break anything, but now you have some explaining to do, I believe.”

Elder Stow looked like he did not want to have to explain, but with a deep sigh he looked down and spoke softly.  “I vaguely remembered something in history, about a thousand years before my time.  I looked it up in my database, which I have found to not be very accurate in some cases.  But anyway, there was once a Gott-Druk group called the Restoration.  They were one of a number of groups that sprang up from time to time, all focused on returning to Earth and retaking our ancient land.  Right about this time, the Restoration experimented with using the Wolv to do the deed.  The Wolv worked well for the Humanoid people.  My history does not admit they ever got passed the talking stage, but apparently, they experimented, as their written record suggested.”

“Your people brought the Wolv here?” They all caught on, but Katie said it.

“Yes,” Elder Stow said.  “We, here, are at roughly the center of the European land mass, Gott-Druk homeland. The written record suggests bringing a brigade, about six hundred to this location and see how well they can clear off the land, that is, kill all the humans.  If these few can clear off and successfully defend an undetermined area of land, that will indicate how many Wolv need to be brought in to clear the entire continent.  The Wolv can be removed again with the stun method, as the Elenar just used, and the idea is then the Gott-Druk can return and live in peace, or as we say, grow fat and full of wisdom.”

The Elenar ship landed, crushing a number of trees that still stood after Elder Stow’s handheld weapon swept the area and the massive explosion of whatever weapon the Wolv brought up.  Decker countered that the Gott-Druk probably had the weapons, including the handheld weapons, and probably did not share them with the Wolv for a good reason.  “The reason there are no Humanoids around anymore is because they taught the Wolv how to use their technology, and the Wolv turned on them in the end.”

“Boston.  Where are you going?”  Sukki shouted as Boston walked away.

Boston shouted back.  “Madam Figiori has some fortune telling cards.  I’m teaching Baklovani the wolfman how to play Go Fish.”

“Can I play?” Sukki asked.  Boston stopped and waved to her.  She ran to catch up.

“Elenar…” Elder Stow said the word and it was not kindly spoken.

“Katie jinxed us when she mentioned them in the last time zone, or the one before that,” Alexis said and put on a big smile.

“Hey!” Lockhart protested.

Alexis just smiled more.  “Well, Benjamin was not here, so I thought it was my wifely duty to say it.”  Lockhart shrugged.  Katie and Alexis both smiled as they watched Boston and Sukki disappear among the circus wagons and tents.  “Probably best if the wolfman stays undercover for a while,” Alexis said.

Katie had a question.  “How long before Lincoln will be able to travel?”

“Tomorrow, maybe.  Next day would be better,” Alexis answered.

“Good enough,” Lockhart said.  “Right now, Decker, Katie and I have to make sure the Wolv in the field are all dead.”

“Grisly job,” Decker said, but he was ready.

###

The Elenar had four warships in a combat group commanded by the Elenar version of a commodore.  Giovanni met with the commodore and his staff while two of the warships penned in the Gott-Druk merchant that brought the Wolv to earth.  The last Elenar ship stayed in orbit to relay information from overhead.  The Gott-Druk had no other ships.  This was an unapproved civilian undertaking.

The Elenar said they kept tabs on various Gott-Druk groups and had a big file on the Restoration.  They said how they got their information was a state secret, but it was not hard to figure out what was happening when some of the Wolv disappeared from one world they were monitoring.

Of course, the Elenar asked about the screens and superior weapons the travelers displayed.  Giovanni said they were state secrets, but he did arrange some help for the travelers to continue their journey.

Two weeks later, the travelers reached the time gate on the Rhine, well above Basel.  They figured Giovanni left Baden-Baden in about a week and headed north toward Manheim.  The circus had to skip the performance scheduled for Stuttgart, but they made some money in the towns on the way to Manheim and they should be in Frankfurt on the day their advanced posters said.  Besides the danger of the few Wolv that still roamed around the black forest, they had to be in Aachen by August.  Giovanni had the written invitation signed by the Holy Roman Emperor himself.

Somehow, Giovanni arranged for a three-man Elenar scout ship to fly cover during the traveler’s journey.  To be honest, they flew up and hovered with their scanners turned to the forest and Rhine River the travelers rode beside.  They looked for any stray Wolv or Gott-Druk that might be tempted to turn in the direction of the travelers.  None did, and in the evening, the travelers always camped in the wilderness, wherever they could find a secluded spot for the Elenar to set down and join them for supper.

Elder Stow kept up his glamour the whole time, looking like a kindly old man.  The Elenar scanners were very good in that age, but they would have to suspect the ruse to penetrate the glamour, and Elder Stow was not about to reveal himself.  Certainly, the travelers understood and kept his secret.  They mostly called him Stow and only let the name Elder Stow slip a few times.  Lockhart explained that they honored and respected their elders and Stow was clearly the elder among them.  The Elenar bought it and there were no incidents.

When the travelers went through the time gate, Elder Stow only said one thing.  “I did not find their sense of humor funny.”  The Elenar laughed a lot, were kind-hearted people who knew how to tell a joke.  Sadly, most of the Elenar jokes had a Gott-Druk as the butt of the joke.

Elder Stow harumphed.  Boston looked at the man and outwardly agreed with him, but she thought some of those jokes were very funny.

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MONDAY

A four part episode with posts Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and THURSDAY.  Metal Men turn up in Normandy in 1066.  The masters have plans to change the future.  Don’t miss it.  Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 8.8 The Bad Penny, part 5 of 6

Everyone tried to pile out of the town hall at once.  They had a traffic jam at the door.  Giovanni grabbed the two knights and pulled them aside.

“Don’t strip the men from the walls.  If the Wolv see an unguarded wall, they will attack there.  Keep men especially around the gates, north, south, and the two little gates in the east.  One opening, and they will pour into the city. And get the people that are outside, inside.”

“Right,” Sir Bertulf said, and he ran off toward the north gate where he massed some men for the night.

“Sir Giovanni?” Sir Radbod asked, just to clarify the Italian word, Don.  Giovanni nodded, and Sir Radbod returned the nod.  He ran off to the south and the Baron’s residence.

Katie grabbed Nanette, with Sukki and Boston standing there beside Madam Figiori.  “Nanette, I need you to go back to the inn and let Alexis and Lincoln know what is happening.  Maybe you should saddle the horses in case we need to make a quick getaway out of one of the east gates.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Madam Figiori said.  “Help is on the way if they get here in time.”

“What kind of help?” Boston asked, not doubting the madam’s word for a second.

“I do not know,” Madam Figiori said.  “But it will be substantial.”

Katie turned back to Nanette.  “Would you, please?”  Nanette only hesitated a few seconds before she ran off toward the inn.

When the women got to the wall, Decker yelled.  “Major.  You take the far end.”  He pointed and flipped his rifle to automatic.  Katie ran down the walkway as men came to stand there, shoulder to shoulder.  Most had spears, but some had bows as well.

“Boston,” Elder Stow called, knowing Sukki would come with her.  He paused in his work on his screen device and handed Boston his weapon.  “You know how to use this,” he said.  “You and Sukki need to go beyond Decker and Katie.  That is about as far as the particle screen wall will stretch.  Hopefully, I can make a Decker wall where the Wolv cannot get in, but Decker can shoot out, but it will only be so wide.  It probably won’t take long for the Wolv to find the outer edges.  You two need to be at the edge.  Oh, and daughter,” he spoke to Sukki.  “Don’t strain yourself.  I know your gift takes a lot out of you.”

“Yes, father,” Sukki said, and with a glance at Boston, she ran in one direction.  Boston ran off in the other.

Lockhart said to Tony.  “Looks like you and I have the center.  We need to give Elder Stow enough time to finish his work on his gadget.”

“It is not a gadget,” Elder Stow mumbled as Tony nodded, pulled his handgun, and stepped up to the wall.  Tony and Lockhart had to scrunch down a little in order to not be seen over the wall.  Most of the men stood straight up, thinking that they were well beyond the range of arrows.

Sure enough, several streaks of golden light came from the edge of the woods.  The lights reached the top of the wall and swept the wall clean of men.  Plenty were burned.  Plenty died, but plenty also ducked in time, and since the light did not linger in a given place, they stayed safe behind the wall.  Lockhart figured a sustained strike in one spot would turn the wooden wall to ashes.

“Here they come,” someone yelled, and a hundred Wolv came rushing out from among the trees.  Decker and Katie opened fire almost immediately.  Both fired first at the places that produced the golden light beams, but soon enough they began to gun down the oncoming Wolv.  The Wolv were fast.  It would not take them long to cross the open area and reach the bottom of the wall.

Decker and Katie, military trained and being highly intuitive, both ducked at almost the same time.  Two golden light beams zeroed in on their position but did not fire for long.  On the first sign of those weapons, Boston adjusted Elder Stow’s weapon to a broad beam, if she did it right, and turned it up to maximum power.  When the light weapons turned on Decker and Katie, she fired at that location.  The trees in that spot exploded, including a couple of big ones that crashed over into the woods.

“Wow,” Boston said to herself as she patted herself on the back.  Then she thought she better move further down the wall.

Almost eighty of the hundred Wolv arrived at the base of the wall, and roughly a third immediately began to climb, using their claws to get a grip on the wooden logs.  The defenders had arrows and spears which the men tenaciously clutched in their sweating palms.  Many arrows helped, but it took three or four well placed arrows to just slow them down.  By far, the stones and bricks the defenders threw were most affective.  A good-sized stone could knock a Wolv right off the wall, and even if it was not seriously injured, it would have to start again from the bottom.

The travelers took a slow but steady toll on the Wolv.  Katie and Decker especially cleaned out the area beneath their positions and had to start leaning over the wall to shoot others.  Lockhart with his police revolver and Tony with his semiautomatic handgun were not nearly as affective.  But they killed or wounded the ones in their immediate area.

Several Wolv made it to the top and shredded plenty of defenders, but the defenders were still numerous enough, so with enough spears, no Wolv got down into the town.

A much bigger and thicker golden light came from the woods.  Tony and Lockhart ducked at first, but Tony noticed the weapon was not directed at them.  It fell beneath them and Tony shouted.  “Back away from this area.  Hurry.”

Lockhart and Tony went in opposite directions, and the defenders near them followed.  Lockhart looked briefly at Elder Stow who still sat there cross-legged, concentrating on his screen device.  He saw Elder Stow touch something on his belt, and a moment later when a big hole appeared in the wall, and the wall in that place collapsed, Elder Stow continued to float there, unmoved.  Of course, the light weapon killed the Wolv in that immediate area, so the Wolv who were still alive were in no position to take advantage of the hole, but they would soon enough if the defenders could not plug the gap.

Then, two hundred more Wolv came roaring out of the woods, making the total used in the attack only half of the Wolv brigade.  And the defenders were already beaten and had a great hole in their wall besides.  They would have surrendered to any human opponent, but they knew there was no surrendering to these beasts.

Boston and Sukki had babbled with each other through their wristwatch communicators.  The people back at the inn might have heard the conversation, but the travelers on the wall could hardly pause long enough to make sense of it.  Sukki and Boston, being well down on both ends of the wall, heard well enough.  And they both said now at more or less the same time.

Boston fired on the spot where whatever made that big beam of light appeared to be located.  Sukki raised her hands and let her power loose, full strength on the same spot from the other side.  Neither had to fire for very long, and the weapon, or whatever it was, exploded.  It sent up a huge cloud of smoke and shook the ground to where even the sure footed Wolv fell to the dirt.  The wall shook, as did the nearby buildings in the town, and some men fell off the wall, while others grabbed the lip of the parapet.

“There,” Elder Stow said and smiled, pleased with himself and oblivious to all that happened around him. But as the two hundred Wolv got up and gathered to restart their charge toward the hole in the wall, they ran into a screen wall they could not breach.  They crashed and bounced back, and no amount of clawing or biting with those powerful jaws made a difference.

Decker wanted to test the screens and see if they were indeed a Decker wall he could shoot through.  He and Katie moved in toward Tony and Lockhart.  There were still thirty or more Wolv on their side of the wall that had to be dealt with, and they would find the hole in the wooden wall soon enough.

Sir Bertulf moved up the men he held in reserve.  They readied themselves for the onslaught.  The travelers got to where they could shoot toward the hole.  Boston and Sukki moved in toward the hole, but they leaned over the top of the wall and fried Wolv on the run.  They figured, now that they had taken care of the main weapons of the enemy, they were free to turn on the Wolv.  The enemy certainly knew they were there, though they probably imagined two very powerful handheld weapons.

Few Wolv made it inside the hole, and while many men got killed, Sir Bertulf had enough men to prevent the Wolv from breaking into the town.  The travelers firing down from overhead had a lot to do with that.  Alexis with her wand and Nanette with Lincoln’s handgun showing up also helped.  Alexis especially was able to call up a hurricane force wind that blunted any charge the Wolv tried to make.

“Look out,” Elder Stow said, and pointed to the screen wall that rested some fifty yards out from the town wall.  The travelers looked, and saw hand weapons, or maybe rifles fired from the other side.  The golden light did not penetrate Elder Stow’s screen, but it did show where it touched the screen, and in this way, they appeared to be looking for the edge of the screen, and they found it.

The Wolv gathered by the two edges.  Katie and Decker opened fire on the gatherings.  Sukki looked tired, and Boston took a moment to turn Elder Stow’s weapon back to a wide angle shot; but she never fired the gun.  Everyone, including the Wolv stopped when a large spaceship zoomed in to hover over the field.  The Wolv started to run as some ten or so fighter ships came out from beneath the mother ship.

At first, the travelers feared the ship belonged to whoever brought the Wolv to earth, but when the Wolv appeared to turn and run for their lives, they understood this ship, if not on their side, at least was against the Wolv.